Mankind's balance of terror has been most unfortunately changed
By Iqbal Latif
September 13, 2001
The attack on World Trade Center in New York is one of the most dastardly
and heinous crimes committed against mankind. This crime will be remembered
no less than the Mongols' burning of Baghdad and the entire loss of Islamic
When I talk to my American friends in New York and all over, they tell
me that this attack on World Trade Center pales the memory of Pearl Harbor,
which was basically an attack on military targets unannounced, but conducted
with the greatest of surprises. America did revive from that and came out
very strong, and that particular attack even changed the course of the World
War II in Europe. You talk to any American and he will talk about some events
in life as a picture embossed in his mind. The assassination of John F.
Kennedy is one such moment. Oklahoma bombing another, which was marked down
as one of the bleakest days in American history. People of our generation
always ask what were you doing then or how did you hear the news then?
But nothing compares to the attack on World Trade Center. In one fell
swoop, the vulnerabilities of America's domestic defense were revealed;
the ease by which four planes were hijacked within 30 minutes of each other,
fully laden with 250 thousand gallons of fuel for a long haul to California,
could only be an excerpt out of a novel. Tom Clancy could have conceived
no better plot than this. The terrorist committed a heinous crime that pierced
a dagger in the heart of America's social, political, strategic, and financial
strength. The billions and billions of dollars spent on defense and ideas,
like the special Strategic Defense Initiative, to insulate America from
incoming nuclear missile attacks lay wasted with a single stroke of lowliest
act a man has ever committed against another man.
The condemnation of this act has no precedent, and can find no better
words than saying that this in the history of mankind will be called as
mankind's darkest day. It is the darkest day because today we thought that
we had groomed ourselves enough to understand and solve issues through mutual
consultation. But that was not to be. The world financial markets have shown
how precarious they can be. What it boils down to is that the entire 35
trillion dollar world economy finally became hostage to twelve human bombs
who had very little respect for mankind in general. The worst of the whole
thing is that this was done in the name of our Holy Book, the Quran, which
teaches the message of mercy, forbearance and tolerance.
The attack on World Trade Center and its associated
human loss of life is coincidentally too large a
price for what has changed for humanity today. The world is poorer today, like the 1967 mass hijackings changed
the way we fly now. These attacks have changed the way we have treated hijackings
so far. The next time any plane takes to the air will not only be worrisome
for the passengers, but the real agony will be for the people on the surface
over whose heads these planes shall be hovering.
The dynamics of hijackings will change completely. So far nations used
to refuse to accept flying planes as too hot to handle on ground; now, the
first change would be that the people will try to bring these planes down
on the tarmac as soon as possible. There will be a deep sigh of relief if
human bombs do not hijack the fuel-laden planes. The world will have to
live in fear of the unknown and that is the biggest disservice to mankind.
Unfortunately, doing this in the name of Islam is the biggest disservice
to Islam. Islam is a religion of compassion, not destruction and death.
It is sad today that we are at this juncture. Not only have the dynamics
of terror been changed, but the fact that a fuel-laden bomb or biological-laden
passenger bombs, the equation of threat against civilians has completely
changed. It's New York today; it can be Cairo tomorrow. The same militants
are as much against New York as they are against any other moderate Muslim
government in the Middle east. Those who are gleefully dancing in the streets
should realize that this is a common threat against mankind. We will never
fly again the way we used to, and our profiles will be under more careful
scrutiny. We who have darkened skins and darkened hair. Is this a fair price
to pay for the whole Islamic nations that today one billion people are under
suspicion? The act of few has clouded the prospects of billion. That is
One thing has come out clear from this: the pockets of terrorists will
not be condoned anywhere in the future. Like, after Pearl Harbor, Japan,
Germany and associated imperial and Nazi thinking were annihilated completely,
this will be a point where there will be a concerted global action against
the thinking of destruction and senseless death. This will be the first
biggest change the world will view. Terrorism, as a threat in general, will
not be dissociated from it. This is a new low in the thinking of people,
who can go down to the level of mass massacring for reasons and benefits
still unknown. It is also, on the other hand, an eye-opener for a superpower
like America that geographic isolation of their country means nothing. They
have to mingle with the world; they have to be associated with the world.
Their vulnerabilities are huge. Never before in history, even after the
World War II, did markets close for three continuous days. The nuclear arsenal
stands useless today as a resolve of a few individuals ready to die for
a controversial cause; they have glaringly opened vulnerabilities of the
greatest empire the world has ever seen since Rome.
Today, when Americans look at dancing kids in the Muslim capitals, they
ask why they are so hated. It has also changed the thinking of a common
American; he is wondering what policies US is pursuing that has led to this
blindfolded hatred against Americans by the Islamic nations. In the short
run, it may be very easy to say that Israel may have scored a great political
victory, but in the long run, Israel has been the biggest loser of this
attack politically. America, which is known as a White American Protestant
country, would question its policies towards the Middle East much more closely,
and it may not be apparent in the next few weeks, but Israel will be under
tremendous pressure to respect the Oslo Accord.
The point is that revenge may not be the answer or a solution to this
problem. It is a question of entire re-thinking. America would need to build
new bridges to the Islamic world, develop understanding and will have to
dangle a carrot with a stick. The fact remains that in Afghanistan, where
the mastermind has taken refuge, is a country known where even British and
Russians could not cow people into submission. And this country had contiguous
borders with these nations. Carpet-bombing of Afghanistan and mass annihilation
would wield no results. It is a question of going and finding the masterminds,
eliminating the root of evil, and that root of evil can only be eliminated
with long-term policies; policies of vigilance.
Today, America has not been attacked from outside but from within; the
enemy was within! Initially it was thought that Americans should punish
the nations that have given their ground and camps to train these de facto
pilots, but it is tragic to see that the very people that were out to commit
horrendous acts were actually being trained in America's frontyard. These
cells existed in America and they apparently had no communication with the
masterminds. The horrific crime was committed through physical intermediaries,
but it was planned and executed within the United States. One hates this
fact, but the truth is that it is a failure of internal intelligence that
such an act could be committed in such a planned and precise manner. America
has to find the enemy within; trace out the selves within America without
engaging on the rhetorics of war. The Pakistani intelligence chief, Gen.
Mahmood, was in Washington and my sources tell me that he is holding discussions
with the Americans on a way out, with Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, announcing his unstinted support to America. The masterminds
of this dastardly act can be encircled and expedited, because nobody is
ready to pay a price.
Scars on America's social thinking, its body politics, its defense establishment
and its global financial supremacy are so deep that no immediate evaluation
can be made of the extent of damage. But, the world has to view this as
a global problem. Wherever these extremist zealots have taken command, the
developments have just disappeared. The biggest joke was that Afghanistan's
leader said, "What will America bomb? We have already destroyed everything
in fighting [within our country]." The leading Islamic ideological
states are all in economic shambles. Is this not an eye-opener enough for
the Muslim world?
The fact remains that the attack on World Trade Center will change the
way we travel; the way the flying crew cabins are designed; the impact on
Mideast policies, where without any iota of doubt, the last thing Americans
should intelligently and hopefully do is not to create more Osama bin Ladens
by adopting a more balanced policy towards the Middle East and stopping
The Americans should rightfully ask only one question: Why them only?
There are other superpowers too. The political hijacking of America will
also come to the fore. It is presently being buried in statements like that
of Senator John McCain's that God may have mercy on those who have perpetrated
this act, but they will have no mercy. But the basic causes are homegrown.
The domestic flights were so insecure that you could carry knives aboard.
No other country in the world allows this. Terrorists were being trained
as professional human bomb pilots and nobody checked their backgrounds.
Despite the 1993 attack on World Trade Center, which had become an unfortunate
booty for the global terrorists, could anyone imagine that the pride was
so high, only one tower was insured as no one expected that the two towers
could fall simultaneously!
The external carpet-bombing of Afghanistan will bring absolutely no results;
it will only create more human bombs. Rather, it would be more appropriate
to address the cause, and win broader support so that America may not be
a known target of the terrorists. I strongly reject and condemn the idea
of yielding to demands, but the next time a plane is hijacked we will all
be more worried that its no longer about passengers and crew only; it is
about a new turn in the way we annihilate each other; it is a new low in
our thinking, much as we condemn it, it is not enough.
The perpetrators who have inculcated this thinking in the human minds
are the lowest of human beings. Mankind's balance of terror has been most
unfortunately changed. The blackmail has just begun and if Islamic states
do not take notice of this, their own powers will crumble, as these blackmails
will be conducted against their own cities by the very elements who consider
most of these moderate Islamic states as heretics. The threat is not just
against America, it is against freethinking and a free society. Those who
rejoice unfortunately represent the death of freedom.